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I think there are two really, really basic mistakes you don’t want to make if you are an expository preacher. Yet the crazy thing is, I’m convinced these are two of the most common mistakes preachers make.
The first mistake is not to carefully exposit the passage you are preaching.
Exposit is not too hard a word to understand. When it comes to preaching we can say it means to expose people to the meaning of the text.
Not merely the words of the text, not merely the grammar of the text, not merely the setting of the text, the meaning of the text. (As the author intended it…) When we say we’re expository preachers that’s a big part of what we’re saying we’re trying to do.
That’s sometimes difficult to do but the idea itself is not that complicated. If I stood up to teach on the boy who cried wolf and I said my goal was to help people understand what it means, I would be lying if I said the point was about how to herd sheep. I’d be foolish if I spent all this time on wolves and the different kinds of wolves and what you should do if you see a wolf because that’s not the point of the text. I mean if I am going to do that I should at the very least not say that I’m expositing the story because I’ll give people the impression that I’m actually trying to help understand the story when in reality I’m just interested in using the story to say what I wanted to say in the first place.
The second mistake though is just as common and that is not to preach the passage you are expositing.
Now I’m getting on a little shakier ground. But hear me out. Again you just can go back to the word itself.
Preaching at the very least is communication. It’s more than that I’m sure, but it is that. It is taking a truth that you’ve learned from studying the text and finding a way to communicate it to other people so that they can understand that truth and change in the way God wants them to as a result.
I guess what I’m saying there are people who when they are preaching, you just wonder whether or not they have any concern about the text. They are not expositors. There are other people though who when they are expositing, you wonder whether or not they have any concern about communicating. Are they preachers?
Is it possible to be a preacher and not be passionate about effectively communicating the truth of God’s Word? To get more specific, is it possible to be passionate about effectively communicating the truth of God’s Word without a concern for God’s Word or a concern for the people you are communicating the truth to?
I recently received an email from Doug Nichols, International Director of Action International Ministries. As I read what Doug wrote, I was reminded of numerous times when I have seen women, older people and handicapped people treated in the inconsiderate and selfish way that the women of whom Doug writes were treated. Some of what is occurring may be due to ignorance or lack of thoughtfulness, but I think as Brother Nichols suggests, the problem usually goes much deeper than that – it reveals a heart problem wherein self interest and an endemic bent to seek our own comfort and pleasure reigns supreme.
And, unfortunately, the problem Brother Nichols describes is prevalent among professing Christians as well as among those who make no profression of faith. We might expect unbelievers to be selfish and disrespectful and inconsiderate, but such should not be the case with those who are called to be followers of the One who came not to be served, but to serve and give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Such should not be the case of those who are called to “do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than “themselves'” (Philippians 2:3). Rather, it should be a characteristic of all of us who call Christ Lord that we “do not merely look out for ‘our’ own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).
What Doug wrote resonated with me for the reason I have already mentioned, but even more importantly, because it has broader and deeper implications in terms of why Christians fail to fulfill many of the commands of Christ about evangelism, missions and ministry to the poor and disadvantaged people of our world.
Now here is the portion of Doug’s email that stimulated me to write this blog. I encourage you to think about what he wrote and consider how it may apply to you and to your church.
“NO SEATS! This morning on the airport bus from a Chicago suburb to O’Hare
the bus was more than full. On the over one hour trip I stood as well as
three women. There were many young men sitting as well as children with
parents. No one offered his/her seat to the women. This attitude of “my
comfort and me first” might also be in the church. We teach by our actions
that our personal and family concerns are most important and do not think of
others around us, so why do we think our family and friends will have
compassion for the needs of the gospel to the orphan, widows, street
children, and the poor of the world.” “So, as those who have been chosen of
God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness …” (Colossians
On a number of occasions I have been in meetings where there were more people in attendance than the main auditorium would hold. On those occasions, Christians were exhorted to be willing to sometimes give up their seats in the main meeting room and go to another room where they would watch and listen to the service as it was relayed to them electronically. This, of course, was suggested so that everyone would at least have some opportunity to be seated in the main auditorium. Interestingly, I have watched as people ignored the exhortations and pleas of the leaders of the conference and selfishly refused to yield to the interests of others. The idea seemed to be conveyed by a vast majority of the attendees was that “I do not and will not esteem others to be more important than myself. I am here to seek my own things and not the things of others. I will not sacrifice my own comfort or pleasure for the sake of others.”
Some may consider this kind of behavior to be trivial and unimportant and be tempted to say, “Why are you making such a big deal out of such a little thing?” My answer to this question is that I suspect that if we behave in this way on little issues such as this, we probably will behave in selfish and inconsiderate ways in other areas of life and ministry as well. How we handle the “no seat” issues of life may very well explain why we are remiss in really sacrificing time and comfort and finances and energy for the cause of Christ in world missions and mercy ministries.
What do you think?
This post contains my (Wayne) answers to a friend who raised some questions about church leadership. His questions are in lower case and my answers are in capital letters only for the purpose of distinguishing questions from answers. (In other words, I realize the capitals can be a bit much but for the sake of clarity bear with me…)
I HAVE LOOKED AT YOUR QUESTIONS AND FRANKLY DON‘T SEE ANY CONFLICT BETWEEN ELDER “RULE” (TIMOTHY 5:17) AND “HAVE CHARGE OVER YOU” (I THESSALONIANS 5:12,13) AND THE ISSUES YOU RAISED UNLESS SOMEONE MISTAKES ELDER RULE FOR ELDER STUPIDITY OR ELDER DICTATORSHIP.
BRIEFLY: 1. How do the principles of Elder Rule interact with the Doctrine of the Priesthood of the Believer? What are the full functions of the New Testament priest? Believers have both a wonderful privilege and a great responsibility.
I DON‘T SEE HOW ELDER SUPERVISION OR OVERSIGHT AFFECTS THE CLEARLY TAUGHT DOCTRINE OF THE PRIESTHOOD OF ALL BELIEVERS AT ALL. HOW WOULD IT AND WHY WOULD IT? I WILL WRITE MORE ABOUT THIS IN LATER ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONS.
2. When Jesus says ‘… tell it to the church” in Mtt 18:17, is he asserting that the Church is the “court of final appeal” on this Earth? It is of particular note that Jesus does not say “tell it to the Elders,” or some church committee. Particularly in light of passages like 1 Cor. 6; if the church has been vested with the responsibility to judge angels, the world and each other – surely, a congregation who is properly informed and truly spiritual, should participate in the selection of their leaders in a determinative sense.
IT DOESN’T SAY TELL IT TO THE CHURCH FOR A VOTE – THE DECISION HAS ALREADY BEEN MADE THAT THE BROTHER IS IN SIN AND THE CHURCH IS ENLISTED TO PRAY AND PLEAD AND EXHORT (in keeping with 2 Thessalonians 3:14, 15).
IT DOESN’T SAY TELL IT TO THE CHURCH AND IF HE REFUSES THEN TAKE A VOTE AS TO WHETHER OR NOT HE SHOULD BE PUT OUT OF THE CHURCH. THE ISSUE IS WHO IS TAKING THE LEAD – WHO SHOULD KNOW MORE ABOUT SCRIPTURE – WHO SHOULD BE MOST MATURE IN SPIRITUAL MATTERS – WHO IS LEADING THE CHURCH TO MAKE ALL THIS KNOWN TO THE CHURCH – AFTER MATTHEW 18:15 AND 16 ARE FOLLOWED WHAT HAS OCCURRED IS COMMUNICATED TO THE ELDERS AS REPRESENTATIVES OF THE CHURCH AND THEY THEN PASS IT ON TO THE CONGREGATION WITH THE EXHORTATION TO THE CONGREGATION TO ADMONISH, PRAY FOR, EXHORT THE ERRING, UNREPENTANT, UNRECONCILED BROTHER. THIS TELLING IT TO THE CHURCH IS OBVIOUSLY A FORMAL KIND OF TELLING.
IT CERTAINLY ISN’T REFERRING TO INDIVIDUALS GOING AROUND AND INDISCRIMINATELY TELLING IT TO VARIOUS MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH. TO DO THIS WOULD BE GOSSIP WHICH THE BIBLE STRONGLY CONDEMNS. ITS OBVIOUS IN REFERENCE TO THIS TELLING IT TO THE CHURCH THAT SOMEONE HAS TO MAKE THE DECISION WHETHER WHAT THE ERRING PERSON HAS DONE WARRANTS A PUBLIC DISCLOSURE TO THE CONGREGATION AND A PUBLIC APPEAL TO THE CHURCH TO PRAY, PERSUADE, ADMONISH, EXHORT, REBUKE, ETC. THE ERRING PERSON. SOMEONE HAS TO DECIDE ABOUT WHETHER THE TELLING SHOULD GO PUBLIC AND THEN WHAT AND HOW THE CONGREGATION SHOULD PROCEED. TO INDICSRIMINATELY TELL IT TO THE CHURCH WITHOUT ELDERSSHIP LEADERSHIP AND SUPERVISION AND INSTRUCTION WOULD MERELY FEED THE GOSSIP MILL. THIS WOULD SERVE NOT CONSTRUCTIVE PURPOSE AND WOULD CLEARLY VIOLATE SCRIPTURE. 3. When Jesus says in Matthew 18:18 “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven;” what is He saying and what is He not saying?
I’M NOT SURE WHAT THIS HAS TO DO WITH THE ISSUE UNDER DISCUSSION IN THAT IT CERTAINLY DOESN’T MEAN (CAN’T MEAN) THAT EVERY PERSON IN THE CHURCH MUST BE IN TOTAL AGREEMENT BEFORE ANY ACTION MUST BE TAKEN.
THE QUESTION IS, DOES THE YOU IN THIS TEXT MEAN EVERY SINGLE PERSON OR DOES THE YOU MEAN THAT THE MATTHEW 18:15 – 17 PROCEDURE HAS BEEN FOLLOWED AND THERE STILL HAS BEEN NO REPENTANCE ON THE PART OF THE ERRING PERSON. IF THAT HAS BEEN DONE, THEN THE ERRING BROTHER WHO IS FUNCTIONING AS AN UNBELIEVER (I.E., HE IS UNWILLING TO LISTEN TO CHRIST ASD HE SPEAKS IN HIS WORD – HE IS UNWILLING TO DO WHAT CHRIST SAYS HE SHOULD DO, NAMELY REPENT AND BE RECONCILED – JOHN 10:28; MATTHEW 18:15 – 17) IS TO BE DISFELLOWSHIPPED FROM THE CHURCH WHICH ACCORDING TO PAUL IS THE SAME AS BEING TURNED OVER TO THE DEVIL (I TIMOTHY 1;20). TO BE PUT OUT OF THE CHURCH IS TO BE TURNED OVER TO SATAN. THE CHURCH IS WHERE CHRIST REIGNS. THE WORLD IS SATAN’S TERRITORY. ALL THIS TEXT MEANS IS THAT IF THE CHURCH FOLLOWS CHRIST’S ORDERS IN MATTHEW 18:15 – 17 IN REFERENCE TO AN ERRING, DISOBEDIENT PERSON ANDS DISFELLOWSHIPS THAT PERSON, THEY DO SO UNDER THE AUTHORITY AND WITH THE APPROVAL OF CHRIST. THE TEXT SAYS NOTHING ABOUT THE NECESSITY OF VOTING. NO VOTE IS NECESSARY IF THE PROCEDURE DESCRIBED IN MATTHEW 18:15 -17 HAS BEEN FOLLOWED. IT’S A DONE DEAL BECAUSE HE WON’T OBEY CHRIST. WHY WOULD ANYONE THINK YOU’D HAVE TO TAKE A VOTE WHEN CHRIST HAS ALREADY LAID OUT THE PROCEDURE AND THE PERSON WAS UNWILLING TO OBEY?
3 AND 4. What are the limits of Apostolic Authority with respect to the normative role of Elders today? “The church as a whole perpetuates the apostolic ministry though no individual has apostolic authority”. (Rodney Decker; Polity and the Elder Issue, Grace Theo. Journal, fall 1988) Elders are to train men for the work of the ministry… they are not the ministry.
What is the Role of the Holy Spirit in the Congregation as a corporate body? 1 John 4:1 says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” How is a congregation to test the spirit and make their collective mind known? How do elders prevent people from ‘voting’ with their tithe or with their feet? What long term effect does that have on the maturity of a church?
AGAIN I DON‘T UNDERSTAND THE PROBLEM. OBVIOUSLY THESE STATEMENTS ABOUT EQUIPPING THE CHURCH FOR MINISTRY ARE TRUE – I BELIEVE IT WHOLEHEARTEDLY. EVERY BELIEVER IS RESPONSIBLE TO DO THIS AND TO DO IT OUT OF LOVE FOR CHRIST NOT BECAUSE HE IS ABLE TO VOTE ON WHAT SHOULD HAPPEN.
CONCERNING THE LAST TWO QUESTIONS, UNLESS PEOPLE ARE MOTIVATED BY SELFISHNESS AND A DESIRE TO RUN THE SHOW RATHER THAN A REGARD FOR GOD’S GLORY AND A DESIRE TO SERVE AND GIVE OUT OF LOVE FOR CHRIST WHAT DOES VOTING HAVE TO DO WITH GIVING OR SERVING? I DON‘T THINK ELDER RULE CAN AND DOES HAVE A NEGATIVE EFFECT ON THE CHURCH OR THE INDIVIDUAL BELIEVER WHEN IT IS UNDERSTOOD AND UTILIZED PROPERLY. THE ONLY EFFECT IT WILL HAVE WILL BE A GOOD EFFECT BECAUSE PEOPLE WILL BE SERVING AND GIVING FOR THE RIGHT REASON – BECAUSE THEY LOVE CHRIST. RIGHT NOW, FOR EXAMPLE, I AM NOT AN ELDER IN ANY CHURCH AND I CAN PROMISE YOU THAT IT HAS NOT AFFECTED MY GIVING OR MY SERVICE OR MY MATURITY. IN FACT, IT PROBABLY HAS HELPED MY MATURITY AND MINISTRY – NO ONE CAN SAY OR THINK THAT I’M DEVOTED, ZEALOUS, PRAYERFUL, ALWAYS ABOUNDING IN THE WORK OF THE LORD, SACRIFICIAL BECAUSE I AM AN ELDER.
AND, BY THE WAY, SOME OF THE MOST MATURE AND ZEALOUS AND SACRIFICIAL AND EFFECTIVE CHRISTIANS I KNOW ARE MEMBERS OF CHURCHES WHERE ELDER RULE IS PROPERLY PRACTICED. PRESENTLY WE ARE IN LITTLE ROCK, AR AND ARE ATTENDING AND TEACHING IN A CHURCH THAT PRACTICES ELDER RULE. THIS IS A CHURCH FILLED WITH HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE WHO ARE SOME OF THE MOST KNOWLEDGABLE, LOVING, DEVOTED AND EAGER CHRISTIANS I HAVE EVER MET. MANY OF THESE PEOPLE ARE LEADERS IN THEIR OCCUPATIONALS ENDEAVORS AND EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE NOT ELDERS, THEY ARE READERS, THINKERS, GIVERS AND ZEALOUSLY SERVING CHRIST. THE SAME WAS TRUE OF
GRACE COMMUNITY CHURCH IN CALIFORNIA WHERE WE WERE MEMBERS DURING THE TIME I TAUGHT AT THE MASTER’S COLLEGE AND SEMINARY. AMONG THE MEMBERS OF THIS CHURCH OF SEVERAL THOUSAND WHICH WAS ELDER RULED (SERVED) WERE SOME OF THE MOST VIBRANT, MATURE, ACTIVE, SACRIFICIAL, COURAGEOUS, GIFTED, ZEALOUS, JOYOUS, THEOLOGICALLY SOUND, CARING, COMPASSIONATE, EAGER TO SERVE, CHRIST LOVING CHRISTIANS I HAVE EVER MET.
IN REFERENCE TO THE IDEA THAT SERVANT ELDERSHIP RULE KILLS MOTIVATION, I SAY AS I’VE HEARD OTHERS SAY ABOUT OTHER STATEMENTS THAT HAVE NO SUBSTANCE OR VALIDITY TO THEM, “THAT DOG WON‘T HUNT”. IN PRACTICE, IT DOESN’T WORK OUT THAT WAY UNLESS THE ELDERS ARE MISUSING THEIR AUTHORITY OR THE PEOPLE ARE SPIRITUALLY IMMATURE AND MOTIVATED TO SERVE FOR THE WRONG REASONS. THERE ARE MANY CHURCHES THROUGHOUT THE USA THAT PRACTICE SERVANT ELDERSHIP RULE AND YET THE PEOPLE ARE FUNCTIONING WELL IN TERMS OF THE PRIESTHOOD OF ALL BELIEVERS. SERVANT ELDERSHIP RULE HAS NOT BEEN AND WILL NOT BE AN INHIBITING FACTOR WHEN RIGHTLY PRACTICED. AT THE SAME TIME, I DO WANT TO SAY THAT I KNOW (AND SO DO YOU) OF MANY CHURCHES WHERE CONGREGATIONAL RULE IS PRACTICED AND YET THE GIVING IS LAGGING AND THE PEOPLE ARE WOEFULLY LAX IN KNOWLEDGE AND ALSO IN SERVICE. THE IDEA THAT PRACTICING CONGREGATIONAL RULE WILL INSPIRE AND MOTIVATE PEOPLE TO GIVE IS OFTEN CONTRADICTED BY WHAT IS HAPPENING IN MANY CHURCHES WHERE THAT IS THE MODUS OPERANDI. MANY PEOPLE REACT AGAINST THIS TEACHING I’VE BEEN EXPLAINING BECAUSE THEY HAVE A WRONG UNDERSTANDING OF HOW IT PLAYS OUT IN THE REAL LIFE OF THE CHURCH. ELDERSHIP RULE DOESN’T MEAN THE PEOPLE DON‘T HAVE A VOICE – IT DOESN’T MEAN THAT THE ELDERS DON‘T SEEK COUNSEL OF THE CONGREGATION – IT DOESN’T MEAN THAT THE ELDERS DON‘T RESPECT AND VALUE THE PEOPLE AND THEIR PERSPECTIVES – IT SIMPLY MEANS THAT THEY ARE LOVING SERVANTS WHO CARE FOR THE SHEEP AND ENCOURAGE THE SHEEP AND WANT TO BE OBEDIENT TO CHRIST WHO SAYS THEY ARE TO MANAGERS, BE OVERSEERS, HAVE CHARGE AND LEAD. THEY LEAD AS SERVANTS WITH A HUMBLE ATTITUDE AND WILLINGNESS TO SACRIFICE. THEY AVOID BEING PUSHY OR DOMINEERING OR AUTHORITARIAN. SERVANT LEADERSHI[P (ELDERSHIP) HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE ELDER BEING MORE IMPORTANT OR SUPERIOR; IT HAS EVERYTHING TO DO WITH FUNCTION AND THE WAY ELDERS SHOULD FUNCTION.AS A HUSBAND I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT HAPPENS IN MY HOME, BUT I DON‘T MAKE DECISIONS UNILATERALLY; I WORK, BUT I DON‘T DO ALL THE WORK. MY WIFE IS MORE GIFTED THAN I IN MANY AREAS AND SO WISDOM AND LOVE MEANS I DELEGATE AND ENCOURAGE AND LISTEN AND ON MANY OCCASIONS UNLESS IT WOULD VIOLATE GOD’S REVEALED WILL I DO WHAT SHE WANTS RATHER THAN WHAT I WANT. THAT’S BIBLICCAL LEADERSHIP WHETHER IT BE IN THE HOME OR IN THE CHURCH. AN ELDER WILL DO THE SAME IN REFERENCE TO THE CHURCH. AND NOW FOR A COUPLE OF OTHER THINGS: AGAIN PLEASE CHECK THE OTHER THINGS I HAVE WRITTEN ON LEADERSHIP ON OUR BLOG SITE. I APPRECIATE YOUR CONCERN AND IN PART AGREE WITH YOU, BUT AFTER 45 YEARS OF READING AND RESEARCH AND EXPERIENCE IN PLANTING CHURCHES, PASTORING CHURCHES, WRITING BOOKS AND ARTICLES ABOUT THE CHURCH AND TEACHING HUNDREDS OF PASTORS ABOUT CHURCH RELATED ISSUES, I BELIEVE THE MEN YOU QUOTE ARE MAKING SOME ASSUMPTIONS AND MAKING SOME STATEMENTS THAT ARE NOT BIBLICALLY WARRANTED. I HAVE PROBABLY READ AND HEARD EVERY ARGUMENT ABOUT THE WAY CHURCHES SHOULD BE RUN THAT IS OUT THERE. FOR YEARS, I PASTORED CHURCHES THAT WERE CONGREGATIONAL IN THE WAY THEY WERE RUN. FRANKLY, FOR BIBLICAL REASONS AND FOR PRACTICAL REASONS I NEVER WANT TO GO BACK TO THAT. I HAVE SEEN AND EXPERIENCED THE DAMAGE THAT THAT KIND OF SET UP PRODUCES. OUR CHURCHES IN AMERICA ARE OFTEN IN A MESS; THEY ARE IN DISARRAY WITH A VERSION OF THE SITUATION IN JUDGES BEING PRODUCED ALL OVER AGAIN – EVERY MAN (AND WOMAN) DOING WHAT IS RIGHT IN HIS OWN EYES IN THE CHURCH. THERE IS A CRISIS OF LEADERSHIP IN THE HOME AND IN THE CHURCH. I THINK SOME OF THE STATEMENTS THAT ARE MADE IN YOUR QUOTES SUCH AS THAT PAUL AND OTHERS LIKE TIMOTHY WERE NOT ELDERS ARE UNWARRANTED. IN FACT, PETER WHO WAS AN APOSTLE SAYS HE WAS AN ELDER IN I PETER 5:1 AND PAUL HOLDS HIMSELF UP AS AN EXAMPLE TO ELDERS FROM EPHESUS IN ACTS 20. ACTS 1 IS SOMETHINES QUOTED AS AN EXAMPLE OF HOW DECISIONS WERE MADE CONGREGATIONALLY. IT’S IMPORTANT IN THIS PASSAGE TO NOTICE WHO WAS DOING THE LEADING IN VERSES 2, 3 AND 13. IT’S TRUE IN THE PASSAGE THAT LATER THERE WERE OTHERS WHO ,JOINED THEM ACCORDING TO VERSE 15. BUT THEY CERTAINLY DIDN’T VOTE . THE PASSAGES SAYS THAT THEY ALL PRAYED WHICH IS A GOOD THING AND SHOULD BE DONE BY THE WHOLE CHURCH WHEN OFFICERS ARE BEING SELECTED, BUT VERSE 26 INDICATES THAT THE MAN THAT WAS CHOSEN WAS NOT CHOSEN BY A VOTE, BUT BY CASTING LOTS.
SIMILARLY, ACTS 13 CANNOT BE USED AS AN EXAMPLE OF CONGREGATIONAL RULE BECAUSE AGAIN IN THIS INSTANCE IT WAS NOT THE CONGREGATION THAT DECIDED WHO WOULD BE SET APART – THAT WAS DONE BY DIRECT REVELATION. AND THAT ISN’T HAPPENING ANYMORE. WE HAVE A COMPLETED SCRIPTURE. GOD HAS SAID ALL HE IS GOING TO SAY AND ALL THAT NEEDS TO BE SAID. AT THAT POINT IN CHURCH HISTORY, ALL THEY HAD WAS THE OLD TESTAMENT. SO GOD REVEALED HIMSELF AND HISWILL IN WAYS OTHER THAN WRITTEN SCRIPTURE. NOT SO ANY MORE. NOT NEEDED ANY MORE SINCE WE HAVE THE COMPLETED CANON. IN ACTS 13 THESE MEN WERE NOT SELECTED BY CONGREGATIONAL VOTE.
AND FURTHER – PEOPLE CAN DO ALL THE GYMNASTICS THEY WANT WITH WORDS IN TERMS OF TITUS 1:5 AND ACTS 14:23, BUT IT IS CLEAR FROM I TIMOTHY 5:17 THAT RULING WITH A SERVANT SPIRIT IS MORE THAN LABORING IN WORD AND DOCTRINE. YES, ELDERS RULE IN PART BY MEANS OF PREACHING AND TEACHING GOD’S WORD. CERTAINLY THAT’S AN IMPORTANT PART OF RULING, BUT THAT’S NOT ALL OF WHAT PAUL MEANT. THE WORD “ESPECIALLY” MAKES A DISTINCTION INDICATING THAT THE RULING AND LABORING IN WORD AND DOCTRINE ARE NOT IDENTICAL IN EVERY RESPECT. ALSO, IN REFERENCE TO THIS DISCUSSION, I DON‘T HEAR OR READ ANYONE ADDRESSING THE SPECIFICS OF THE “HAVE CHARGE OVER YOU” ISSUE OF I THESSALONIANS 5:12, 13. ALSO I HAVE NOT HEARD THE SPECIFICS OF THE “OBEY” AND “SUBMIT” COMMANDS OF HEBREWS 13:17 EXPLAINED. WHAT DO THESE WORDS MEAN? DO THEY MEAN SOMETHING OR NOTHING? PEOPLE CAN FOOL AROUND WITH SOME OF THE OTHER WORDS IF THEY WANT AS THEY OVERLOOK THE IMMEDIATE AND LARGER CONTEXT OF SCRIPTURE ON THE LEADERSHIP ISSUE. THE MEANING OF WORDS MUST NOT ONLY BE DETERMINED BY LOOKING AT A GREEK OR HEBREW DICTIONARY (LEXICON), BUT ALSO BY LOOKING AT THE IMMEDIATE AND LARGER CONTEXT OF SCRIPTURE – BY COMPARING SCRIPTURE WITH SCRIPTURE. PEOPLE MAY SAY THAT CERTAIN WORDS MEAN SOMETHING OTHER THAN WHAT THE WORDS APPOINT, ORDAIN AND SET IN ORDER USUALLY MEAN. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE WORDS “OBEY” AND “SUBMIT” AND “RULE” AND “HAVE CHARGE” AND “APPRECIATE” AND “”ESTEEM AND THAT THEY MAY DO THEIR WORK WITH JOY AND NOT WITH GRIEF” WHICH ARE FOUND IN I THESSALONIANS 5:12,13; HEBREWS 13:17; ACTS 14:23 AND I TIMOTHY 5:17? ANY WAY, THERE YOU HAVE SOME OF MY THOUGHTS – MY UNDERSTANDING OF SCRIPTURE ON CHURCH LEADERSHIP. OTHERS MAY DISAGREE – SOME BECAUSE THEY THINK OF ELDER RULE AS DICTATORSHIP; BECAUSE THEY MISUNDERSTAND THE WAY ELDER RULE SHOULD FUNCTION EVEN AS MANY MISUNDERSTAND THE WAY THE LEADERSHIP OF THE HUSBAND SHOULD FUNCTION IN THE HOME. IN ANY CHURCH THAT PRACTICED SERVANT ELDERSHIP RULE WHERE I SERVED WE ALWAYS INVOLVED PEOPLE. WE NEVER ACTED UNILATERALLY. SOME PEOPLE ARE SCARED OF WHAT MAY HAPPEN; THEY ARE IMAGINING THINGS THAT NEVER HAVE OR HOPEFULLY NEVER WILL HAPPEN WHEN GODLY ELDERS WHO ARE MORE CONCERNED ABOUT GOD’S GLORY AND THE GOOD OF GOD’S PEOPLE THAN THEY ARE ABOUT HAVING THEIR OWN WAY AND THROWING THEIR WEIGHT AROUND. WHERE SERVANT ELDER RULE IS PRACTICED BIBLICALLY, PEOPLE WILL BE CONSULTED; PEOPLE WILL BE LISTENED TO; IDEAS AND PERSPECTIVES OF PEOPLE WILL BE SOUGHT AFTER AND FACTORED IN. IT WOULD BE UNBIBLICAL NOT TO DO THIS AS WELL AS FOOLISH AND DISASTROUS. THE AFFIRMATION OF THE PEOPLE IS ESSENTIAL AND IT OUGHT TO BE SOUGHT.
WILL EVERY FINAL DECISION OR CONCLUSION THE ELDERS COME TO BE ACCEPTED AND APPROVED BY EVERYONE? PROBABLY NOT. BUT THAT SHOULDN’T SURPRISE US OR ALARM US BECAUSE EVEN IN CONGREGATIONAL RULE CHURCHES YOU HAVE PEOPLE WHO DISAGREE WITH THE VOTE OF THE MAJORITY. WHERE SERVANT LEADERSHIP (ELDER RULE) IS PROPERLY PRACTICED, THE CONSENSUS OF PRAYING, HUMBLE, SERIOUS PEOPLE WILL BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY. AND IF THE CONSENSUS OF THE GODLY, PRAYING, DEVOTED, CHRIST LOVING AND HONORING PEOPLE SEES IT ONE WAY THEN THE LEADERSHIP OF THE CHURCH WHERE SERVANT ELDERSHIP LEADERSHIP IS APPROPRIATELY PRACTICED WILL MAKE THE PERSPECTIVES OF THE CONGREGATION A LARGE FACTOR IN WHAT THE CHURCH DOES AND HOW IT FUNCTIONS IN MATTERS THAT ARE NOT CLEARLY LAID OUT IN GOD’S WORD. IN FACT, APART FROM BIBLICAL QUALIFICATIONS AND PRINCIPLE, A MOST IMPORTANT PART OF MAKING A DECISION FOR GODLY, BIBLICAL ELDERS WILL BE THE CONSENSUS OF THE PRAYING, GODLY, HUMBLE, DEVOTED, CONGREGATION.
THE CONGREGATION WILL HAVE A VOTE EVEN IF THEY DON‘T HAVE A FORMAL, RAISE YOUR HAND, CAST A BALLOT, SAY “AYE” KIND OF PROCEDURE. PEOPLE NEED NEVER FEAR: WITH GODLY ELDERS THE PRAYERFUL PERSPECTIVES OF THE CONGREGATION ARE IMPORTANT AND WILL BE TAKEN INTO CONSIDERATION.
I found this description of the biblical responsibilities of elders on a blog by a colleague here in South Africa. Since it is somewhat related to what we’ve been discussing about church leadership, I include it here. Steve Plodenic of Christ’s Seminary gets the credit for putting it together. Thanks Steve for your hard work. Take it away Steve.
This is a list of responsibilities for elders and not a definition of those responsibilities nor a description of how they are to be carried out. This list must not be considered as the only responsibilities that elders are accountable for. The obligation to “shepherd the flock of God” encompasses much more than any list can include. This starting point provides the basic direction, points of accountability and principles needed for an elder to fulfill his ministry.
Most of the NT passages dealing with the responsibilities of Elders/Overseers/Bishops:
Acts: 6:1-6; 11:28-30; 14:23; 15:1-7; 15:20-23; 15:28; 16:4; 20:17-21; 20:28-31; 20:35; 21:17-25. Romans: 12:8. 1 Corinthians: 3:1-11; 4:1-2. 1 Thessalonians: 5:12-13, 1 Timothy: 1:18-19; 3:1-7; 4:7; 4:12-5:22; 6:10-14; 6:20. 2 Timothy: 2:15; 4:1-2, Titus: 1:5-9; 2:1; 2:7; 2:15-3:2; 3:10. Hebrews: 13:7; 13:17; 13:24. James 5:14, 1 Peter 5:1-5.
Responsibilities of Elders Stated Positively
Elders are to;
1) have the authority to delegate important tasks, Acts 6:1-6
2) direct the congregation in important tasks, Acts 6:1-6
3) initiate ministries within the church, Acts 6:1-6
4) devote themselves to prayer, Acts 6:1-6
5) devote themselves to the ministry of the Word, Acts 6:1-6
6) lay their hands on individuals to commission them to ministry, Acts 6:1-6; 1 Tim. 4:14, 5:21-22
7) be involved with and responsible for finances, Acts 11:28-30
8) serve for the people in the church, Acts 14:23
9) hear-out and judge doctrinal issues in the church, Acts 15:1-7
10) check on the status and progress of other ministers, Acts 15:1-7, 21:17-19
11) examine doctrinal issues, Acts 15:1-7
12) discuss/debate doctrinal issues between themselves, Acts 15:1-7
13) inform the church of their decisions concerning doctrinal issues, Acts 15:20-23 & 28
14) involve the congregation in making some decisions, Acts 6:1-6, 15:20-23 & 28
15) make decisions that are binding upon the church, Acts 15:20-23 & 28, 16:4
16) be with the people, Acts 20:17-21, 28-31 & 35
17) serve the Lord by serving the church with humility, Acts 20:17-21, 28-31 & 35
18) declare to the church anything that is profitable for them, Acts 20:17-21, 28-31 & 35
19) teach the people in public, Acts 20:17-21, 28-31 & 35; 1 Thess. 5:12; 1 Tim. 4:12-5:2
20) teach the people in private, Acts 20:17-21, 28-31 & 35; 1 Thess. 5:12; 1 Tim. 4:12-5:2
21) declare doctrines of the gospel, Acts 20:17-21, 28-31 & 35
22) stand guard over their own life and doctrine, Acts 20:17-21, 28-31 & 35
23) stand guard over the life and doctrine of the church, Acts 20:17-21, 28-31 & 35
24) shepherd the church, Acts 20:17-21, 28-31 & 35; 1 Peter 5:1-5
25) be alert and watchful, Acts 20:17-21, 28-31 & 35
26) remember the faithfulness of past elders and imitate them, Acts 20:17-21, 28-31 & 35
27) be an example to the church, Acts 20:17-21, 28-31 & 35; 1 Tim. 4:12-5:2; Titus 2:7; 1 Peter 5:1-5
28) work hard, Acts 20:17-21, 28-31 & 35; 1 Thess. 5:12; 1 Tim. 5: 17 & 21-22
29) help the weak, Acts 20:17-21, 28-31 & 35
30) remember the words of Jesus, Acts 20:17-21, 28-31 & 35
31) give rather than receive, Acts 20:17-21, 28-31 & 35
32) resolve important issues on their own authority, Acts 21:17-25
33) lead the congregation, Rom. 12:8; Heb. 13:7 & 17
34) be careful and precise in how they go about their duties, 1 Cor. 3:1-11
35) be seen as servants of God, 1 Cor. 4:1-2
36) administrate the mysteries of God, 1 Cor. 4:1-2
37) be trustworthy, 1 Cor. 4:1-2
38) be in charge of and rule over the congregation, 1 Thess. 5:12; 1 Tim. 5:17
39) fight for the faith, 1 Tim. 1:18-19, 6:10-14
40) maintain faith and not be shaken, 1 Tim. 1:18-19
41) have a clear conscience, 1 Tim. 1:18-19
42) men who desire to serve in the office of elder, 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9
43) be blameless, above reproach, 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9<
44) be the husband of one wife, 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9
45) rule their own house well and with dignity, 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9
46) be self-controlled, temperate, sober, 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9
47) be sensible, sane, of sound mind, 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9<
48) be well behaved, orderly descent, 1 Tim. 3:1-7
49) be given to hospitality, 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9
50) be forbearing, considerate, moderate, gentle, 1 Tim. 3:1-7
51) be peaceable, 1 Tim. 3:1-7
52) be able to teach, 1 Tim. 3:1-7
53) able to keep his children under control with dignity, 1 Tim. 3:1-7
54) take care of the church, 1 Tim. 3:1-7
55) have a good reputation with those outside the church, 1 Tim. 3:1-7
56) discipline themselves with, in and for godliness, 1 Tim. 4:7
57) be an example of proper speech to all believers, 1 Tim. 4:12-5:2
58) be an example of proper conduct to all believers, 1 Tim. 4:12-5:2
59) be an example of proper love to all believers, 1 Tim. 4:12-5:2
60) be an example of proper faith to all believers, 1 Tim. 4:12-5:2
61) be an example of proper purity to all believers, 1 Tim. 4:12-5:2
62) read Scripture in public, 1 Tim. 4:12-5:2
63) exhort believers, 1 Tim. 4:12-5:2
64) take pains to be precise in living godly, 1 Tim. 4:12-5:2
65) be absorbed in living godly and their duties, 1 Tim. 4:12-5:2
66) be noticeably maturing in the faith, 1 Tim. 4:12-5:2
67) examine their own teaching carefully, 1 Tim. 4:12-5:2
68) examine their own lives carefully, 1 Tim. 4:12-5:2
69) persevere in godly living, 1 Tim. 4:12-5:2
70) treat all people properly according to their station, 1 Tim. 4:12-5:2
71) must not discriminate at all, 1 Tim. 5:21-22
72) be careful about laying on hands so they do not release an unqualified person on the church, 1 Tim. 5:21-22
73) keep themselves free from sin, 1 Tim. 5:21-22
74) flee from greed, 1 Tim. 6:10-14
75) pursue righteousness, 1 Tim. 6:10-14
76) pursue godliness, 1 Tim. 6:10-14
77) pursue faith, 1 Tim. 6:10-14
78) pursue love, 1 Tim. 6:10-14
79) pursue perseverance, 1 Tim. 6:10-14
80) pursue gentleness, 1 Tim. 6:10-14
81) keep the commandment without fault, 1 Tim. 6:10-14
82) guard the responsibilities entrusted to them, 1 Tim. 6:20
83) avoid worldly chatter, 1 Tim. 6:20
84) avoid empty chatter, 1 Tim. 6:20
85) avoid false and apparently knowledgeable arguments, 1 Tim. 6:20
86) diligently work to be approved by God, 2 Tim. 2:15
87) accurately handle the Word of Truth, 2 Tim. 2:15
88) preach the Word, 2 Tim. 4:1-2; Heb. 13:7
89) be ready at all times to fulfill your responsibilities, 2 Tim. 4:1-2
90) reprove with patience and instruction, 2 Tim. 4:1-2
91) rebuke with patience and instruction, 2 Tim. 4:1-2
92) exhort with patience and instruction, 2 Tim. 4:1-2
93) maintain order in the church, Titus 1:5-9
94) have children who believe, Titus 1:5-9
95) be God’s stewards, Titus 1:5-9
96) ove goodness and what is good, Titus 1:5-9
97) be just, fair, righteous, Titus 1:5-9
98) be holy, devout, pious, Titus 1:5-9
99) hold firmly to the faithful word and teach it, Titus 1:5-9
100) exhort the church in sound doctrine, Titus 1:5-9
101) refute those who contradict sound doctrine, Titus 1:5-9
102) speak in accordance with sound doctrine, Titus 2:1
103) maintain purity in doctrine, Titus 2:7
104) be dignified, Titus 2:7
105) exercise authority when speaking, exhorting and reproving, Titus 2:15-3:2
106) remind the congregation to be subject to their rulers, Titus 2:15-3:2
107) remind the congregation to be subject to those in authority over them, Titus 2:15-3:2
108) remind the congregation to be obedient, Titus 2:15-3:2
109) remind the congregation to be ready to do good deeds, Titus 2:15-3:2
110) remind the congregation to not speak evil of or malign anyone, Titus 2:15-3:2
111) remind the congregation to be peaceable, Titus 2:15-3:2
112) remind the congregation to be gentle, Titus 2:15-3:2
113) remind the congregation to be considerate of all people, Titus 2:15-3:2
114) cast out factious people in the church, Titus 3:10
115) keep watch over the souls of believers, Heb. 13:17
116) give an account of their ministry to God, Heb. 13:17
117) pray for those in the church, James 5:14
118) minister to those who are sick, James 5:14
119) shepherd the flock of God, 1 Peter 5:1-5
120) exercise oversight of the church, 1 Peter 5:1-5
121) serve the church voluntarily, 1 Peter 5:1-5
122) be elders according to the will of God, 1 Peter 5:1-5
123) serve with eagerness, 1 Peter 5:1-5
124) be humble, 1 Peter 5:1-5
Responsibilities of Elders Stated Negatively
Elders must not;
1) neglect the Word of God, Acts 6:1-6
2) be an innovator in the basics of the faith, 1 Cor. 3:1-11
3) be a drunkard or given to drink, 1 Tim. 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9
4) be greedy, covetous, a lover of money, or fond of sordid gain, 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-5
5) be quick-tempered, inclined to anger, pugnacious, nor violent, 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9
6) be a new convert, a novice, 1 Tim. 3:1-7
7) fall into reproach, 1 Tim. 3:1-7
8) fall into the snares of the devil, 1 Tim. 3:1-7
9) be involved in worthless worldly rumors and fables, 1 Tim. 4:7
10) neglect their spiritual gifts, 1 Tim. 4:12-5:2
11) be ashamed, 2 Tim. 2:15
12) be accused of dissipation, Titus 1:5-9
13) be accused of rebellion, Titus 1:5-9
14) be arrogant or self-willed, 1 Titus 1:5-9
15) let anyone disregard them, Titus 2:15-3:2
16) serve under compulsion, 1 Peter 5:1-5
17) serve for financial reasons, 1 Peter 5:1-5
18) think they are lords of the congregation, 1 Peter 5:1-5
THOUGHTS AND QUESTIONS ABOUT CHURCH LEADERSHIP
In Acts 14:23, we read that “they” appointed elders in every church. Who were the “they” who appointed elders? Well, the “they” of verse 23 must be interpreted in the light of the “they” of verses 21 and 22. Clearly the “they” of verses 21 and 22 refers to the missionary team of Paul.
I Timothy 3:1 along with many other passages indicate that elders are overseer. What does it mean to be an overseer? Are elders to be underseers who wait for the congregation to make the decisions and then follows through with their orders? Are they to check everything out with the congregation? Where does the checking out begin and where does it stop? How much and how little do the elders have the congregation vote on? On what issues should they do this and on what issues should they not do this?
In I Timothy 3:4, 5 the Bible says that elders are responsible to manage the church of God? What does managing involve? Does this mean that the elders should put everything up for a vote and then simply orchestrate what the congregation has decided? Where does managing start and where does it stop?
Later in I Timothy 5:17 Scripture talks about the elders ruling? What does that mean? Again, should they put everything up for a vote and let the congregation decide how they and the church should function on issues not clearly spelled out in Scripture?
Chapter 5:18 – 25 gives instructions about how elders should be selected, taken care of, treated and even disciplines. Well, to whom were these instructions primarily given? Who was responsible to do these things? I think I Timothy 1:1, 2 makes it very clear that Timothy as a prototype elder/pastor was responsible to carry out these instructions. Certainly every elder will want to seek the counsel of, gather the opinion and affirmation of godly people. It would be foolish and prideful as well as unbiblical for elders not to do this.
Moving on – what did Paul mean when he said that it was the responsibility of Titus who was functioning as an elder/pastor at the church in Crete to set in order what remains and to appoint elders in every city (1:5). Was he telling Titus who again was a prototype of all elders and pastors to put these issues up to a vote? And when he told him in 1:10, 11 to silence the “rebellious, empty talkers’ was he suggesting that it was necessary for Titus to call a congregational meeting and ask the congregation for their approval before he did this?
And what did Paul mean when he wrote to the Thessalonians and told them that the elders had charge over them in the Lord? What does it mean to have charge? What was the nature of their authority? Certainly it involved faithfully preaching God’s Word and commanding people to obey it? But did their authority extend to other congregational issues such as scheduling the time of the services, choosing what hymns should be sung, choosing the days on which special services were to be held, selecting elders, selecting Bible Study materials, etc.? Did they first have to bring these items up to the congregation in terms of the decisions that were made? Having “charge” must mean something.
Why have elders at all? Why not just have congregational meetings? Why should it be necessary for the elders to be prudent and hold fast to the faithful word if what they do must first be submitted to the congregation for a vote? What is the point to having elders and calling them overseers if they are primarily followers when it comes to important issues of congregational life?
Scripture calls elders Shepherds (Acts 20:28; I Peter 5:1, 2). What does it mean to be a Shepherd? Does a shepherd have any responsibility to lead – to set the pace or should the sheep be doing the leading?
And what about Hebrews 13:7? What does verse 7 mean when it says that Christians in the congregation should imitate the faith or faithfulness of their leaders? What does Scripture mean when it speaks of the fact that the leaders are to lead Christians. What does it mean to lead? Certainly elders are to lead by teaching the Word of God, but is that all the Bible means by leading. What about issues where there is not a clear thus saith the Lord? What about issues where we can’t turn to the Word for specific direction? As mentioned previously, certainly in keeping with Proverbs 15:22 and 11:14 any godly elder will be interested in the perspectives of the people even as any godly husband who is charged with the responsibility to manage and lead his wife and family will seek the counsel of his wife. And unless he has some very good, in most cases biblical reason for not following her counsel he won’t do something which she strongly opposes. In similar fashion godly elders will avoid being authoritarian. Certainly they will consult with the people over whom they have God given leadership responsibilities when making important decisions. Certainly, as godly husbands will listen to their wives, godly elders will listen to their people and be slow to do anything with which the people in their church disagree unless it is specifically commanded by Scripture.
And what does Hebrews 13:17 mean when it says that the people of the church are to obey their leaders and submit to them? Certainly this doesn’t mean that church members are to obey and submit to their elders on issues that are contrary to Scripture? Nor, does it mean that Christians are obligated to obey and submit to their elders on issues to which the Scripture does not speak or even give guiding principles. But when it comes to matters related to the elders fulfilling their God given responsibilities such leading the church, feeding and teaching the church, caring for the church, protecting the church, motivating the church, watching over the souls of the people in the church, guiding and overseeing the church, disciplining wayward church members and rescuing people who have gone astray, the members are responsible to obey and submit to them and do their best to make their ministry a joy and a delight (I Thessalonians 5:12,13; Hebrews 13:17).
And incidentally, if you want to read more about the biblical concept of leadership in the church and what it means for Christians to obey and submit to their elders, you will find more exposition of these issues in a book that David Swavely and I wrote called Life in the Father’s House. You may order a copy of this from www.mackministries.org or http://www.audubonpress.com.
I think one of the neat things about going out as a missionary is the chance to rethink what you think you already know from a different perspective.
For example, and I’m just talking out loud here, there’s this idea out there in missions circles that if you want to be effective you need to target…
The following is a version of a letter I sent to a good friend who was thinking about leaving a good church and beginining to attend another church for less than biblical reasons. I decided to incude this letter on our blogsite because this practice of church hopping and shopping is so common among professing Christians and because it is harmful to the individual Christian and the work of Christ in this world.
I received some disappointing news that you are thinking about leaving the church. Carol and I love you and your family and are sorry that you are even thinking about moving churches. We are sorry for a number of reasons. One is for your sake and the sake of your children. When a person joins a church there are commitments that are made that should not be easily broken. It is legitimate to leave a church if the church has become apostate and no longer is faithful to the Word.
Church is not just an organization where you go to get; it is an organism where you go to give as well as get, to minister as well as be ministered to. I would encourage you to read my book To Be Or Not to Be A Church Member: That Is the Question. That books lays out the basis for church membership and also discusses the responsibilities of church members. Consider what you are teaching your children about commitment and service.
It may also be legitimate to move to another church if the church to which you presently belong is teaching erroneous doctrine or practicing a philosophy of minstry that is seriously in contradiction to what God’s Word teaches or majoring on what may be considerered as minor, secondary issues. In keeping with and included in what I have just mentioned would be a church where either the leaders or congregation are allowed to live ungodly lives without appropriate church discipline being administered.
Unless I misunderstand your reasons for considering a move, none of the things I’ve mentioned apply in your situation. I’m not getting the impression you think your present church has become apostate; nor from what I understand are you saying your present church is majoring on certain issues to the neglect of other important issues. Nor do I hear you saying that they are overlooking obvious and flagrant ungodliness on the part of the leaders or congregation.
It may also be legitimate to change church membership because you are being called to fulfill a ministry there that no one else is fulfilling and that you could not fullfiill at your present church. In reference to your situation, I know the area pretty well and I am convinced that there is not another church in the area that more faithfully and practically and relevantly and accurately preaches the Word and ministers to people. Does your present church need to improve? Absolutely, as is true with the best of churches.
I know of some men who, after much thought, research and counsel with godly, humble, seasoned and mature men (especially involving the elders/shepherds of present church to which they belonged) decided to accept the call to to another area of ministry because there was no one else that was doing or was even equipped to do what they were being asked to do. When they made the decision to move to another ministry they did it after discussing the move with other elders of their present church and they made the decision because they fully expected that gifted, committed, devoted men like you would step up and make sure their present church would continue and expand its ministry in the area where they were located and through their present church to the ends of the earth after they had gone. If it were just a matter of personal preference I guarantee that these men and their families would not have even considered leaving their churches. Their going had nothing to do with what they would personally preferred. It was all about Him – For these men to live is Christ (Philippians 1:20 – 23; Matthew 6:33). It would have been easier and much more comfortable for them to live out the rest of their days at their present church and in their familiar circumstances, but they decided to deny themselves the easy path and move for the sake of unique ministry opportunities and needs. Have you considered these issues and have you consulted carefully with and listened to the elders/ shepherds under whose care you have placed yourself? (Hebrews 13:17; I Thessalonians 5:12,13)
Another reason why the news that you are thinking about moving to another church is disappointing to us is related to the impact that this will have on the people of your present church. My friend, have you considered the impact that leaving may have on the work of Christ at your present church? You and others like you are needed where you are. This is the time for devoted, unselfish, committed, energetic, zealous men to step up to the plate and be a part of expanding the ministry of your present church rather than hindering that work by leaving. Please I beg you to think carefully about the impact on the other people and on the total ministry of the church. And remember, my friend, the truth of a the statement that someone passed on to me. The statement was that if the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, it’s probably because it’s artificial turf. I encourage you, therefore, to stay and make your present church more fruitful and useful to the Kingdom than it ever has been.
Please also consider what kind of an impact this will have on your unsaved relatives (parents for example) and friends. What kind of a message will you be sending about Christ and about the church to them and to others who know about your participation in your present church? You must realize that as a Christian whatever you do will be either positive or negative in its apologetic and evangelistic value. Is it any wonder that unsaved people have a low opinion of the importance of the church and commitment to the church when many Christians have a very low view of the church and commitment to it?
And when you think about apologetics and evangelism to an unsaved world, consider these words from Ravi Zacharias. Ravi Zacharias is quoted as saying, “If the church of Jesus Christ rises to the challenge of HIV/AIDS it will be the greatest apologetic the world has ever seen.” Jesus tells us that one of the ways we are to seek His fame is by doing good works. “Let your shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” We believe that we as Christians have a unique opportunity to do just that by demonstrating the grace of God through sacrificial love for HIV/AIDS affected orphans.
I agree with Ravi. I know that your present church is very concerned about meeting the needs of the hurting and helpless and disadvantaged people of the world. They demonstrate that through their giving and praying for missionaries who minister to perople like that. They also demonstrate their concern and compassion through what they do for each other and hurting people in the area where the church is located. Well, I believe that being part of a church like this that is concerned about meeting the needs of the hurting and helpless and disadvantaged people has more apologetic and evangelistic value than all the words in the world.
Many today think very lightly of church membership. In fact, there are many who seem to be involved in the rolling stone or should I say switching churches phenomena. There are, as I have noted, legitimate reasons for moving your church membership, but the reasons that impell most people to move from one church to another are usually quite different from the ones I have mentioned. And, to me, this is serious.
And just how serious is it? Well, listen to what John Calvin said in his widely read and treasured work The Institutes of Christian Religion. Calvin wrote,”The Lord esteems the communion of his Church so highly that he counts as traitor and apostate from Christianity anyone who arrogantly leaves any Christian society, provided it cherishes the true ministry of the Word and sacraments.” ((page 1024) Could Calvin have stated the seriousness of church hopping more strongly than he did in this statement? If he could, I don’t know how. And while, I may think that the words he used were a bit over the top and perthaps stated too strongly, I do agree with his conviction that switching churches for less than biblical reasons is a serious matter.
So my friend, I ask you to please think on these things. Don’t leap before you look. Remember Romans 14:23, “Whatever is not from faith is sin” meaning, of course, that if we do anything without a conviction that it is supported by God’s Word we are sinning. The point being that I am encouraging you to make sure that what you are doing is according to God’s law and testimony (Isaiah 8:19, 20). I’m not saying that it is always wrong to change churches, but what I am saying is that if we do, we need to make sure we’re doing it with the approval of our God.
Be assured that we love you and will always do so regardless of what you decide. Carol joins with me in extending our warmest regards.
Your friend and brother in Christ,
Romans 14:7, 8
I thought I might share a little something I’m in the beginnings of working on to describe part of why we are looking to move to Africa.
There are millions of children throughout Sub-Saharan Africa who have lost both of their parents to AIDS. And it’s only going to get worse. Quoting The New Scientist, “The most comprehensive analysis of orphans to date suggests that by 2010 sub-Saharan Africa will be home to 50 million orphans due to AIDS.” One federal government web-site states, “Southern Africa remains the world’s worst hit AIDS infected region, accounting for more than two-thirds of HIV/infections and AIDS deaths. South Africa has more people living with AIDS than any other country in the world. A quarter of a million South Africans died of AIDS in 2002; the figure is expected to surpass 1 million a year by 2008. HIV/AIDS is the chief cause of death for South African women aged 15 to 39.”Writing as far back as 2002 one reporter in article entitled “AIDS orphans strain South Africa” notes, “’In developing countries, the norm is for about 2 percent of children to be classed as orphans,’…‘In South Africa, that figure is more like 17 percent…‘” To make matters worse, he goes on to say that, “…relatives are often reluctant to take in the children of AIDS victims because of the stigma attached to the disease, even in a country where 20 percent of all adults are infected with HIV.” With no one to take care of them, this means many orphans “…get no schooling, basic nutrition or hygiene.’” He reports, “Government officials concede that they are overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem. As the adult population drops, some fear a “Mad Max”-style future with teenage gangs roaming the streets in hard-hit cities. The country’s richest province, Gauteng, plans to set aside $30 million to provide for orphans, to be used as a $45-per-month grant for foster parents who take in children. However, neither the federal government nor other provinces have yet to come up with any strategy for helping the orphans themselves. ”
“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil. Learn to do good; Seek justice; Reprove the ruthless; Defend the orphan; Plead for the widow.” Isaiah 1:26,27
“He who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord, and He will repay Him for his good deed.” Proverbs 19:16
“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave me nothing to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink; I was a stranger and you did not invite Me in; naked and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit me.’ Then they themselves also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to the least one of these, you did not do it to Me.’” Matthew 25:41-46
“This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” James 1:27
Ravi Zacharias is quoted as saying, “If the church of Jesus Christ rises to the challenge of HIV/AIDS it will be the greatest apologetic the world has ever seen.” Jesus tells us that one of the ways we are to seek His fame is by doing good works. “Let your shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” We believe that we as Christians have a unique opportunity to do just that by demonstrating the grace of God through sacrificial love for HIV/AIDS affected orphans.
TSHOFELO CHILDREN’S HOMES…
I never chose to call where I live an apartment.
I learned while in South Africa this summer that there are a whole lot of other people in the world who would call where I live a flat. To tell you the truth, I’ve never even considered calling it that. Not because it isn’t a flat or because I don’t think flat is a good name for it, I just never knew I had the option.
I guess I’m just bringing this up because I like to think I’m my own man. But it’s funny when you start realizing just how many choices have already been made for you. I mean, even down to the words you use.
Calling an apartment a flat, that’s just one example.
People have asked for a listing of items for prayer: So here is that list.
Please pray for the items on Joshua’s previous blog about him and his move to RSA with all that has to be done prior to that.
Praise for God’s continuing faithfulness and goodness.
Praise for the opportunities to serve Him and for the kindness of fellow Christians.
Praise for people who love His Word and are being changed through the teaching of His Word.
Praise for the way the Lord is beginning the process of Josh and Marda’s move to RSA.
Praise to God for Werner and Thomas and Hanrais IN South Africa who are looking after our house in Pretoria while we are away.
Praise to God for the dear brothers and sisters in RSA who love Christ and love us and are praying for us.
Praise to God for His mercy and grace and willingness to put up with us and even use us in spite of our weakness and frailty.
Praise to God for the students who are continuing to enroll at Grace School of Ministry for courses this October.
Praise for the publishing of my books Out of the Blues and Sweethearts for a Lifetime.
Praise to God for the dedicated pastors and people of The Bible Church of Little Rock who take care of us and provide for us while in the USA.
Praise to God for the way He is blessing and expanding the ministry of The Bible Church of Little Rock and other churches in the USA.
Praise to God for the 49 years of marriage that Carol and I have been privileged to have with each other.
Praise to God for 49 years of privileged service for Christ that Carol and I have had together in various parts of the USA, other parts of the world and now in RSA.
Praise to God for all the people who have loved us, encouraged us, challenged us, comforted us, been loyal to us, ministered to us, put up with us and been willing to allow us to minister to them for the last 49 years.
Pray for our continuing courses we’re teaching here in Little Rock (3 times a week) and then on to Mexico for a conference at the beginning of September.
Pray for healing for Carol’s hand.
Pray for the stabilization of my blood sugar level.
Pray for all the things that need to fall into place before Josh and family move to RSA.
Pray for strength to do all we must do prior to our return to RSA.
Pray for more eager students for Grace School of Ministry courses in October. We already have a sizable enrollment, but would still ike to have more.
Pray for more godliness and improved likeness to Christ on our part.
Pray for Ryan, Ian, Joel and others in RSA who are working on GSM and Tschofleo orphanage details in RSA.
Pray for all of the details related to the development of Tshofelo orphanage in Pretoria, for Hanrais, for the board, for all the necessary government details to be expedited, for the raising of funds for constructing the buildings.
Pray that God might cause people to give so that the funds necessary for the operation of GSM and Tshofelo orphanages and training schools might be raised.
Pray for a movement of the Spirit in bringing people to Christ and building them up in Christ in RSA and the USA and all over the world.
Pray for our families that all of them might be increasingly devoted to Christ and serve Him with all their hearts. Pray for them and us as we are separated from one another.
Pray for the Christians in America that they might realize that since God has blessed us with material blessings they might recognize their stewardship and more diligently use what they have for His glory.
Pray for the ministry in which our daughter, Beth, is involved in the Joburg area – Lambano orphanage homes and Grace Christian Church and Mercy Christian Church.
Pray for Pastors Lance Quinn, James Henrich and Todd Murray as they leave soon to speak at a Reformation conference in Zambia sponsored by the church where Conrad Mbewe is the pastor. They are expecting pastors and people from many parts of Africa. They will also be making contact with Christian leaders in South Africa to see how they can partner with the churches in RSA in ministry.
I could go on, but that’s probably as much as you can handle for the present. Thanks you for your support.
http://www.themacks.wordpress.comYours because we’re His,
Wayne and Carol Mack
Psalm 115:1; Romans 14:7, 8
Missionaries to South Africa
Professor of Biblical Counseling at Grace School of Ministry in South Africa
Adjunct Professor of Biblical Counseling at The Master’s College (July)